A “Prophetic” Take on 2020

In the past few months, several things have become clear to me.

  1. This world is dying, literally perishing, due to a lack of truth and rational thinking.
  2. I possess the spiritual gift of prophecy (don’t stone me yet!).
  3. I am called to be a writer.
  4. Creating music is very therapeutic for me.

When you put all of that together, you get–among other things–2020 Vision: My latest, most professional-sounding album yet. (If you missed it, it is available for free–here–for a limited time.)

This album is a result of my musings over the past year, beginning with this blog post.

"The joke this year was 20/20 vision
But since March we've forgotten that mission
The thing though is that it's not too late to achieve
And it wasn't a joke--God wants us to see"

I released this album, relying heavily on the theme of being awake: Actively looking to Jesus, not being lulled back to sleep, and trusting Jesus no matter what might come.

This is an unprecedented time in which we are living. No one seems to have a clue what is going on.

And i don’t have any more clarity than the rest, but i do have a few observations:

First, COVID-19 is a legitimate virus that people have died from, so the conspiracy theorists are off base.

Second, God is in control, so we need to trust Him.

Third, if we look through the Bible, we will only find two similar events to what we’re facing in 2020.

The Flood of Noah’s day was God’s judgment on the earth for humanity’s sinfulness (specifically violence [חָמָס chāmās], cf. Genesis 6:11, 13). However, this doesn’t quite fit because all but eight people were wiped out in that judgment, and the mortality rate of COVID-19 is not nearly that high.

Also, the Tower of Babel (cf. Genesis 11:1-9) was God’s judgment on a united humanity–a humanity that was united in rebellion against God. God’s judgment here was to confuse their language so that they could no longer work together and succeed in their rebellion against God.

And what do we see in 2020?

As humans, we are more connected and “united” than we’ve ever been before. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, the curse of the Tower of Babel has almost been undone. We can communicate with anyone anywhere–who speaks any language–with the help of an app or two. And what does the media keep telling us?

“Stay away from people!” “Practice social distancing!” “Don’t gather in large groups!”

It sounds a lot like the expected result from God’s confusion of language at the Tower of Babel. This makes me wonder if God is trying to humble us and slow our progress as a human race?

"So trust Him now, in this time of Babel
And don't resist Him like foolish, dumb cattle"

The final line comes from Psalm 32:9, where David writes:

Do not be like a horse or mule,
without understanding,
that must be controlled with bit and bridle
or else it will not come near you.

In a psalm where David praises God for His forgiveness, David wants others to be quick to humble themselves before God. As such, verse 9 is written–as if God was speaking–to challenge people not to let animals be more obedient than them. He says that animals obey because they are forced to obey. We don’t want to be forced to obey God, so we must heed David’s words and “trust Him now, in this time of Babel.”

With that lengthy introduction concluded, let’s discuss “prophecy.” You see, whether i write or rap, God has called me to be a prophet.

And no, that does not mean that i know what the future holds. That’s not typically what it meant in Bible times, either.

While the apostle . . . was one “sent forth” to the unbelieving world, the prophet was a minister to the believing church (1 Cor 14:4, 22). Ordinarily his message was one of “edification, and exhortation, and consolation” (1 Cor 14:3). Occasionally he was empowered to make an authoritative announcement of the Divine will in a particular case (Acts 13:1 ff). In rare instances we find him uttering a prediction of a future event (Acts 11:28; 21:10 f).

J. C. Lambert, “Spiritual Gifts,” ed. James Orr et al., The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company, 1915), 2843.

And further, when we look at prophets like Isaiah or Jeremiah:

The word prophesy means specifically “to foretell the future” in some languages, but the Hebrew verb here is better translated in this context as “proclaim God’s messages” (GNT, NLT, BRCL) or “preach God’s message” (ICB). The exact nature of this prophecy is not clear, but there is no indication that it involved predicting the future.

Roger L. Omanson and John E. Ellington, A Handbook on 1-2 Chronicles, ed. Paul Clarke et al., vol. 1 & 2, United Bible Societies’ Handbooks (Miami, FL: United Bible Societies, 2014), 585–586.

For instance, most of Isaiah’s messages were proclaimed in 701 BC when Sennacherib of Assyria was laying siege to Jerusalem. Isaiah stood by King Hezekiah, encouraging him and the whole nation to trust and obey God to survive the siege and see Jerusalem be blessed by God. As such–especially in the first 39 chapters–proclamations about the future are few and far between.

Or, take Jeremiah. His prophetic ministry took place around 586 BC. His is the longest of all the prophetic books. Still, only a fraction deals explicitly with the future (chapters 29 and 31). The rest of his book shows him interacting with the king and the people, proclaiming God’s message regarding their current predicament.

Or, to fast forward to a Puritan’s explanation from 1592, take these two definitions:

Prophecy (or prophesying) is a solemn public utterance by the prophet, related to the worship of God and the salvation of our neighbours.

Preaching the Word is prophesying in the name and on behalf of Christ. Through preaching those who hear are called into the state of grace, and preserved in it.

William Perkins, The Art of Prophesying (1592).

Everything we read in the prophetic books of the Old Testament can fit under this definition. As such, there’s no reason to think that prophecy has ceased in the church today. Though–to be fair–if someone stands up and declares, “In the future…” they have no idea what they are talking about. Unless, of course, they continue that sentence by saying, “Jesus Christ will return and judge the living and the dead! Have you placed your faith in Him yet?”

So i hope you’ve dropped your stones at this point.

But back to 2020 Vision.

I was reading my Bible a week or two ago, and i stumbled across the following verse as i was nearing the end of the Old Testament:

David and the officers of the army also set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, who were to prophesy accompanied by lyres, harps, and cymbals

1 Chronicles 25:1

Do you see it?
What were these men supposed to do?

They were supposed to “prophesy.”
But how?

Accompanied by musical instruments.”

When i read this, i was confirmed in my thinking even more. And then, after i followed the passage into some commentaries, i was even more confirmed in my thinking:

The musicians’ task is unexpectedly described as prophesying (v. 1, cf. vv. 2–3). The context indicates that this activity involved the playing of musical instruments, and that it was carried out under the king’s supervision (vv. 2, 6). Both features are unusual in Israelite prophecy. Two explanations of this Levitical prophecy are possible. Either they supplied messages direct from God in the manner of the classical prophets, for which the Levite Jahaziel (2 Chr. 20:14–17) provides an obvious analogy (cf. GNB, ‘to proclaim God’s messages’), or their praise was itself seen as ‘prophecy’ in that it proclaimed God’s word with God’s authority. Further examples of the latter are found in several of the prophetic books. In addition to the familiar ‘words’ from God, they include messages addressed to God, hymns and prayers of the kind that the Levites would have used in their own worship (e.g. Isa. 12; 42:10–13; Jer. 10:6–10).

Martin J. Selman, 1 Chronicles: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 244–245. Emphasis added

Music is so synonymous with “praise” that this passage validated my conviction that one of my spiritual gifts is prophecy. It also encouraged me to finish my album, sharing a message–“proclaiming God’s message” (Handbook 1&2 Chronicles)–with the world. It is God’s message, only because it is so saturated with the Word of God. (I am not claiming any sort of divine inspiration. Please don’t twist my words to say that i am.)

Another interesting point is found in Perkin’s book. He says,

There are two parts to prophecy: preaching the Word and public prayer. For the prophet (that is, the minister of the Word) has only two duties. One is preaching the Word, and the other is praying to God in the name of the people. . . . Notice that in Scripture the word ‘prophecy’ is used of prayer as well as of preaching: ‘The sons of Asaph, of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals’ (1 Chron. 25:1).

William Perkins, The Art of Prophesying (1592).

Prayer is essential. This is one of the lessons i have learned in 2020. I’ve done more praying this year than i have done in a long time. I’ve prayed long and hard this year about the topics discussed on 2020 Vision.

But what exactly does this sort of prophecy look like?

Well, you can listen to my album, which i would encourage you to do. You can find it here. Or, you can keep reading this post, which i would also encourage you to do.

To properly learn what is meant by a word in the Bible, we must look at it in context. Prophecy in 1 Chronicles 25:1-3 doesn’t really have much of a context to help define it. So, we expand our search. The rest of the chapter doesn’t really help either. Neither does the rest of 1 Chronicles. But, since 2 Chronicles is still part of the same book–written by the same person–this context is the closest, most helpful answer to what is going on in 1 Chronicles 25:1.

Here’s what we read in 2 Chronicles 20:13-19,

All Judah was standing before the LORD with their infants, their wives, and their children. In the middle of the congregation, the Spirit of the LORD came on Jahaziel (son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite from Asaph’s descendants), and he said, “Listen carefully, all Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat. This is what the LORD says: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast number, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow, go down against them. You will see them coming up the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the valley facing the Wilderness of Jeruel. You do not have to fight this battle. Position yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD. He is with you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Tomorrow, go out to face them, for Yahweh is with you.’ ”
Then Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD to worship Him. Then the Levites from the sons of the Kohathites and the Korahites stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel shouting with a loud voice.

The first thing to note is where Jahaziel comes from. “Son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite from Asaph’s descendants.” In 1 Chronicles 25:1, it said that those who were set apart to prophesy musically were from among “the sons of Asaph.” Jahaziel had been set apart for this task, and because He was where God had sovereignly placed him, God used him to deliver a word to His people.

But what is this word?

Interestingly, it isn’t a “God will kill your enemies.” Jahaziel wasn’t blessed to be able to deliver that specific of a message. Instead, his message is the following:

Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast number, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow, go down against them. You will see them coming up the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the valley facing the Wilderness of Jeruel. You do not have to fight this battle. Position yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD. He is with you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Tomorrow, go out to face them, for Yahweh is with you.

2 Chronicles 20:15-17. Emphasis added.

Primary message: “Trust God! Don’t fear!”

And what is the end result of this heart posture?

“2020 Vision” (to put it in modern terms).

There’s no clearer vision than seeing the salvation of God. And where is this vision found?

The answer is in Jahaziel’s statement. “See the salvation of the LORD.”
Literally, “See the yeshua of the Lord.”

We achieve 2020 vision by trusting God, refusing to live in fear, and remembering that God is on our side. When we do this, the promise of this text is that we will see salvation. And that doesn’t always mean protection from physical death. But it does mean–whether we live or die–that we will one day see Jesus, whose name means “salvation.”

Each day we must strive to live by faith, refuse to live in fear, and remember that God is on our side. The reward for this kind of living is salvation.

But maybe you’ve read this far, and you don’t know Jesus. I would be remiss not to share Him with you. As William Perkins wrote 428 years ago, “Preaching the Word is prophesying in the name and on behalf of Christ. Through preaching those who hear are called into the state of grace, and preserved in it.

I can’t claim the spiritual gift of prophecy if i’m not extending the grace and salvation of Jesus to all who hear me.

Jesus Christ came to earth 2,000 years ago, lived a life of love and grace and honesty toward everyone He interacted with. He never hurt anyone, unless by His honesty–showing them their desperate need for His grace. And He was more loving than the most loving person you can imagine.

In the end, He didn’t line up with the Jew’s expectation for who the Messiah would be, so they ordered the Romans to crucify Him as a troublemaker. This was all part of God’s sovereign plan. A sinless substitute was needed to pay for the sins of a sinful humanity.

Jesus died, taking the punishment you and i deserve for our rebellion against God, for our lack of faith in God, for our lack of love for others. (Look around the world in 2020, and what do you see?) We all need Jesus for these very reasons!

But the good news is that He didn’t stay dead. He rose from the dead after three days. This was to show that God was pleased with His sacrifice. Because He didn’t have any sin of His own to die for, He was raised from the dead–vindicating His perfection!

Trust in Christ today!

It’s hell if you don’t!

"Be strong and courageous in the midst of this virus
Be strong and courageous when there is no virus
Be strong and courageous--be strong and courageous
Trust Christ, trust Christ who died to save us"

(You can find 2020 Vision here.)

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Sola Scriptura
Solus Christus
Sola Fide
Pro Ecclesia

Thanks for reading.

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